Should You Rely on AI for Editorial Feedback on Your Novel?
As the world grows older, we’re getting to the point where a computer will decide what you have for breakfast and when. Artificial intelligence (AI) has become (depending on who you listen to) either the bogeyman that will put machines in charge or a tool that can help in decision-making.
We’ve been using AI far longer than some people think. That spell checker in Word, Grammarly (the tool with the jauntingly irritating advert you keep seeing on YouTube), search engines, and predictive texting.
I could go on.
The growth of the latest generation of AI (you may hear the term Large Language Models) has introduced tools that help with initial editorial feedback, allowing writers to perfect their work independently – and without paying a stranger a massive wedge of cash. AI is nowhere near ready to replace the human touch (yet), but making prudent use of what’s out there means that when an experienced editor gets to grips with your manuscript, the basics are in place, and their feedback will be much more effective.
However, there is a debate on how much is too much when it comes to using AI. Is relying on AI for editorial feedback on your novel ethical and practical?
Unpacking AI and its role in the writing process
Artificial Intelligence has revolutionised many sectors and industries, and the literary world is no exception. Despite the rumblings (often ill-informed) that there’s a big bad machine out there copying every novel ever published and shuffling the words out as new ones, it’s likely to have a massive impact on how we write. Or I should say a continued impact. From intelligent word processors to sophisticated grammar checkers, AI’s presence is already baked in at every stage of the writing process. Perhaps the most controversial (and most recent) impact is the development of AI-powered tools that operate as chatbots and provide iterative editorial feedback – significantly reducing the time and money spent on editing and proofreading. And if indie authors can save money, you can bet your boots the Big Five publishers will be doing the same!
Relying on AI for editorial feedback
The use of AI in the editing process is subject to controversy. Some argue tools like Claude and ChatGPT lack the human touch necessary for effective editing, while others raise ethical concerns about the ownership of AI-generated content. Those fully behind AI-editing tools say they offer unbiased and efficient feedback and can help writers overcome common hurdles such as writer’s block. Spoiler alert: they can, but (often) they shouldn’t.
The pros of using AI for editorial feedback
Speedy and efficient editing
One of the most significant advantages of using AI for editorial feedback is speed and efficiency. Traditional editing can be time-consuming, tedious, and costly for an indie author. AI tools are able to scan large amounts of text in seconds, identifying errors, plot holes, and continuity flaws, suggesting improvements, and even assisting in character development and structuring. They can be told what book genre they’re reading, understand the conventions and tropes, point out where these do or don’t appear, and suggest ways to fix your story.
I’ve used AI in my next book to check the criminal plot line remains consistent and understand what charges each character might face if investigated. It helped me out of a hole and made me decide to never again write a story with a crime secondary plot. Telling CHATGPT to ‘act as a public prosector and read this story, pointing out who you think broke the law, when and how’ is a marvellous help for when my brain was addled.
AI tools provide objective feedback based on programmed algorithms. Every piece of advice or critique you receive is free from (conscious or unconscious) personal bias, making it invaluable in creating a well-rounded and balanced narrative.
Consistent attention to structure, plot, and characters
Another advantage of AI tools is their ability to consistently analyse your novel’s structure, plot, and characters. They identify inconsistencies, plot holes, and character development issues that human editors might overlook. That said, if you ever try hitting ‘regenerate’ and get a different answer, it’s a great way to pick out which of these pointers are actually worth following – if the same things crop up in three or four iterations of your feedback, pay attention – just like when working with peer reviewers.
The cons of trusting AI
Lack of human touch and emotional understanding
While AI tools can analyse text based on pre-programmed criteria, they lack the emotional understanding intrinsic to the human reading experience. They need help comprehending human emotional nuances, tone and mood. This lack of emotional insight often results in a sterile, mechanical narrative. A bit like when you run your fabulously intentionally flawed text through Grammarly and get back something that reads like the instruction manual for an air fryer.
And let’s be honest, none of us writes to get a book out and on the market quickly and without any enjoyment. If all we want is a book, buy one someone already wrote. If you think AI is going to write you the next bestseller, you’re wrong. Just try reading some AI generated text. A little goes a LONG way.
Ethics and cheating concerns
Using AI tools to generate content raises ethical concerns. There’s an ongoing debate about whether using AI for content creation constitutes plagiarism (or cheating) if the author takes full credit for the work. To maintain ethical integrity, it’s important to disclose the use of certain AI tools in content creation.
Despite their advanced algorithms, AI tools are not infallible. They may sometimes select irrelevant information or need to recognise your intended tone or style. This limitation underscores the need for human oversight in the editing process.
Importance of transparency in the writing process
By now, you’ll have twigged … I used an AI tool to create a first iteration of this blog piece and then weighed in with my own nonsense. I’m telling you this because transparency is key in any creative endeavour. If you use AI for editorial feedback, disclosing this to your readers helps maintain trust and authenticity. It also lets your reader form their own opinions about the influence of AI on your writing. If you use AI to write the entire book, you have no reason to be reading this, you are not a writer.
Methods of disclosing AI usage
You could include a note in the acknowledgements section of your book or mention it in interviews and press releases related to your novel. Being open and honest with your readers about your writing process isn’t wrong. But just how much you reveal is up to you. I’ve never seen a top author thank MS Word for helping them spell stuff – and technically, if playing by hard and fast rules, they should.
Making an informed decision
Using AI for editorial feedback on your novel comes with time and money-saving benefits. It also raises questions around quality and ethics. Weigh up these factors before deciding how much you want to welcome AI into your editing process. Consider your specific needs and circumstances, and remember, maintaining ethical integrity and transparency with your readers is paramount.
While AI tools offer valuable assistance in the editing process, they’re far from being able to replace the human touch entirely. Maybe one day that will change, but I think that with all art, once the human touch vanishes, it becomes artless. As an author, your unique voice and creativity are irreplaceable.
I’ll be returning to this topic in the coming week, offering tips about some of the better tools to use and talking again about how NOT to use AI.